Mediation is when a divorcing couple sit down together with a mediator with a view to reaching agreement, the hope being that this will avoid a need to involve the court.
Mediation is not new in the family law world but regulations introduced in April have raised its profile again and I am seeing an element of confusion as to whether clients 'have' to embark on mediation.
The answer is 'no' - no one has to become involved in mediation, the requirement is only that couples have to 'consider whether mediation is for them before making an application to court'. Many settlements are reached by family lawyers without ever having to think about resorting to Court and where parties are able to negotiate fairly we can document the details quickly and easily.
Mediation is not suitable for everyone - it may be particularly suitable for cases involving children but it would not be suitable for any matter where one party is significantly more dominant than the other, where violence has been involved in the marriage, where assets are particularly complex or unclear, or where one party will not compromise.
It is always positive to see additional options being introduced to enable separating couples to reach agreement but 'beware' mediation is only about facilitating agreement as to who has what or who does what. Consider the suggestion that 'unless there is certainty on the full extent of the value of assets (including pensions, shares, investments and personal items such as jewellery) it cannot be possible at mediation to determine a fair settlement'.
When your future is dependent on how you proceed it is critical to ensure you have experienced legal advice in order to understand not only the assets involved but also what a fair settlement for you would be and how best to optimise the terms. Assets are rarely split 50:50 and settlement terms can be complex with the ability to vary terms as circumstances change in the future – an opportunity not to be lost by agreeing simple settlement terms.
Almost every client I see has the same objective 'to achieve agreement’ (whether that be a financial settlement or arrangements for their children) in the quickest time, at the most reasonable cost and with the most preferential outcome possible for them. With over 28 years of experience I am able to advise clients which route to settlement will be best for their particular circumstances: that may be mediation in time, but this should not be the first port of call. A client needs to understand the full extent of assets involved and what their legal entitlement and options are before they sit down in a mediation forum.
We offer a first meeting at no charge and at a time and location to suit you. Angela lives in Dobcross and is able to see clients locally in the Saddleworth area. She is a Partner with Solicitors JARVIS Family Law.
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